Will I gain weight if I eat at night?

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Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on how many calories you eat throughout the day and how active you are. It also depends on your food choices. Are you eating dinner late? Or are you eating ice cream after dinner leading to consumption of extra, empty calories. Generally it is not good to go to bed on a full stomach. You are more prone to heart burn and gas. However, I don't buy the rule never to eat after 6 pm.
Robert DeVito
Fitness
Will eating past 7 p.m., especially carbohydrates, result in weight gain?

The body does not have an enzyme with a watch that after 7 p.m. preferentially stores items, especially carbohydrate, as fat. All of us have a certain number of calories we can consume without gaining weight. If you happen to change your daily schedule and end up eating a final meal or snack later in the evening without changing your calories, you are in no danger of accumulating weight as a result of that minor alteration. Ideally, however, you would spread your allotted number of calories throughout the day to prevent hunger and prevent wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can sap your energy levels.

Eating late may make you feel sluggish and affect your digestion, however, this would happen on an individual basis. Conversely, if you consume too many calories at 12:00PM you will be gaining weight from that point on.

Aim to increase your meal frequency to 4 meals daily WITHOUT increasing your calorie intake.

Yours in health,
Robert J DeVito
Innovation Fitness Solutions

Eating at night doesn’t necessarily lead to weight gain. Despite the die-hard myth that calories consumed at night are metabolized more slowly than those consumed by day, the truth is that it’s how many calories you consume -- not when you consume them -- that matters. Your body burns calories 24 hours a day. Your metabolism does slow down slightly at night, but not  enough to matter. So go ahead and eat dinner at 8 p.m. or have a midnight snack without feeling guilty.

The real danger of nighttime eating is that it often results from unhealthy meal patterns and habits, not hunger.

Weight Watchers offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss that can help you reach your goals.
Cassie Vanderwall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Yes and No. Yes, eating at night will promote weight gain if you have already exceeded your calorie budget for the day. No, eating at night will not cause you to gain weight if you have not yet met your needs.

There is no specific time that individuals cannot eat after. This recommendation is popular, because people tend to make more choices at night because they are tired.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Weight gain is caused by an excess of daily calories beyond the amount needed for body function and energy used in 24 hours. Extra calories are often eaten at night when there is more down time to eat in the comfort of your own home for hunger or pleasure. Extra calories eaten during the day will produce weight gain as well, although activity during the day may result in more efficient use of the calories for energy and not quite as much weight gain as if the same calories were eaten right before going to bed. Healthy weight maintenance is best achieved with a steady low calorie diet of nutrient dense foods, eaten any time of day, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, proteins including lean meat, nuts, legumes, beans, soy or dairy and reduced saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics
It depends. If you can keep your portions in check and the calories from your night eating are simply part of your daily eating routine then you should be fine! Where some people get into trouble is what I like to call mindless eating that often happens at night (although can happen anytime of day)... like eating ice cream out of the carton, snacking on a whole bag of chips while watching a movie, etc... Night snacking can be fine and part of a balanced eating plan. Quick snack ideas to try: whole grain crackers with reduced fat cheese, apple slices with peanut butter, or veggie slices with roasted red pepper hummus.
Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics

This is a great question and one that is asked everytime I teach a weight management class.

Eating at night causes weight gain only if you exceed the amount of kcalories you require in a day to remain at your current weight (daily caloric needs). Think about this and do the math:

If you require 1,600 kcalories a day and you eat 350 kcalories during breakfast, 150 kcalories during break time and 450 kcalories during lunch, how many kcalories have you eaten? That's right, only 950 kcalories! Now, let's suppose you become extremely busy around 5:00PM and don't eat until 10:30PM. Will eating a meal of 650 kcalories or less make you gain weight? The answer is "No" because you haven't exceeded your daily caloric allotment, which is 1,600 kcalories. You still have a surplus of 650 kcalories before that meal.

If you suffer from heartburn, GERD or other conditions that may cause you to feel bloated after eating or cause you to experience a "queezy" stomach feeling should not eat right before you go to bed.

Jim White
Nutrition & Dietetics

During the night is when our bodies utilize the least amount of energy, therefore, it does not need the same amount of calories as it does during the day. Eating a meal at night leaves the body with an excess of calories which if not utilized will be stored as fat, thus causing you to gain weight. If you must eat at night it is best to do so 2-3 hours prior to your bedtime.

Lorren Negrin
Nutrition & Dietetics
This is a myth. However, I believe that the myth came from what people choose to eat late at night such as chips and sweets. If you continue to eat a balanced diet throughout your day and night you should not gain extra weight. Good night time snacks: 1/2 cup fruit fruit, small piece of angel food cake, 6oz low/non fat yogurt.

That’s one of those myths that has been around for quite some time. In reality, eating late at night does not necessarily contribute to weight gain. You only end up gaining weight if your total calories eaten throughout the entire day exceed the calories you burn. For some people eating late at night can be a problem when they severely restrict calories during the day and then get so hungry at night that they binge on excess calories. As long as you track your calories throughout the day and don’t exceed the recommended limits, you can eat late into the night without putting on weight.

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
You will gain weight by eating at night only if you take in more calories than your body needs for that day. So if you simply put calories back into your body at night that you have withdrawn earlier in the day you will end up in calorie balance which means you will maintain your weight. Similarly if your total calories for that day including those you eat at night are greater than what your body uses for the day you'll gain weight because those extra calories will be stored for later use.
Not necessarily. If you eat the same amount of calories throughout the day, or late in the day, this will not have a significant impact on weight loss. However, if you starve yourself all day long, there’s a strong likelihood that you will overeat, or make poor choices when you finally do eat. Research shows that eating throughout the day helps people lose weight because it prevents them from getting too hungry.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.